Amid an unprecedented rise in French immigration to Israel, 1,000 French high school seniors on Thursday arrived in Israel to take part in a weeklong tour of the country organized by the Jewish Agency.
During a gala celebration held Thursday night in Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, agency Chairman Natan Sharansky told the French Jewish teens participating in Bac Bleu Blanc (“Seniors in Blue and White”) that France’s roughly half a million Jews are “leading a new wave of aliyah [immigration] to Israel.”
“You will enjoy every moment in Israel and you will see that it is a technological and scientific superpower and the beating heart of the Jewish people. You will return to France as ambassadors of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel,” Sharansky said.
According to recent Jewish Agency statistics, more than 3,000 Jews will have made aliyah by January — an increase of at least 57 percent from last year and a 31% jump from the annual average between 1999 and 2012.. Before this year, annual French aliyah totaled more than 3,000 people just four times, most recently in 2005. Since the spike in anti-Semitic incidents in France during the second intifada in 2002, the average annual French aliyah has increased by some 60%, from 1,357 immigrants per year in 1985-2001 to 2,194 in 2002-12.
In addition to Sharansky’s address, the teens heard musical performances by singer Yonatan Razel, IDF Chief Cantor Lt. Col. Shai Abramson, and an IDF singing troupe. Bac Bleu Blanc alumni who moved to Israel in recent years joined this years participants.
During their stay, Bac Bleu Blanc participants will travel around the country, meet with Israelis, and learn about educational programs, institutions of higher education, and the Israeli hi-tech sector, the Jewish Agency said in a statement.